Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
I’ve made it no secret that we’re a Disney family, which is probably why the only movies I’ve talked about here are Disney animated films or other Disney-produced films. So it should come as no surprise that this weekend we’ve seen Frozen 2, and that I have some pretty strong opinions about.
One of the things I found curious about the sequel before watching it were the critic reviews. By the time we went to see it, it sat at 77% on Rottentomatoes with a 65 on metacritic; a far cry from Disney’s recent huge successes like Moana (96% and 81) and Zootopia (97% and 78). But what was even more concerning for me was that it even lagged behind their other recent sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, who landed 88% on RT and 71 on Metacritic. While I enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet, I didn’t find it all that special, so coming into Frozen 2, I was justifiably worried.
I came out of the movie confused.
For starters, I feel like Frozen 2 makes Wreck It Ralph 2 look like Pocahontas 2. It is what sequels should be – instead of lazily rehashing elements that made the original successful, it moved both the story and the characters forward and explored its own issues in a complex ways. Heck, even the comic relief, Olaf, gets some development and his struggles are used to explore sentience, growth and understanding one’s own emotions.
Frozen 2 takes the first movie, which followed more closely to the Disney formula and was more of a sister story within a fairytale, and flips it into a fairytale within a sister story. The relationship between Anna and Elsa takes centre stage here as the young women try to build a future in which they can shine both individually and as a sibling unit. Stories like this need to be told considering how much of children’s entertainment is filled with only-child orphans and sibling rivalries.
I would be remiss if I at least mentioned the music, which was probably the defining feature of the first movie and the primary method by which it bore its way into our minds and pop culture. You won’t find the next show-stopper like “Let it Go” here and the movie accepts this by not making any cheap replicas. Instead, the songs serve a strong narrative purpose but are more woven through the movie to ensure that the soundtrack is both essential but doesn’t take precedence over the story.
Coming out of the theatre, I was curious to see where the criticism for the movie had come from and found that two common themes were its supposedly meandering plot and bleakness.
I can see why the plot may have felt like a series of sequential steps rather than as a smooth arc, and I do find that the magic lore requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than one is used to, but I think this is a direct result from the movie’s movement away from a particular formula. Rather than being pushed along through a particular set of check marks to a predetermined destination, the characters are forced to react to changing events and revelations and move through darkness towards the light.
Which brings me to the issue of “bleakness”. I’m not sure how we can expect Disney’s storytelling to mature if don’t allow it to take us to places we might not necessarily be comfortable in. The hope that it wants to inspire in us needs to be set against a backdrop of a certain kind of despair.
This is exactly where I feel Frozen 2’s legacy will lie – using their own constructed world to start conversations about indigenous topics in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced. Without getting too deep into revealing plot details that you really should appreciate for yourself, themes of reconciling the past, both personal and societal run deep through Frozen 2. Trauma can reach across generations and the movie highlights how we can take it upon ourselves to right the wrongs of the past and grow in the process instead of being overwhelmed by a history we had no control over. What we do have control over is ourselves, and to echo a common refrain throughout the film, we need to focus on doing the next right thing rather than folding your hands and giving up.
Disney’s approach to handling this important and sensitive topic shows that they can put their money where their mouth. In making Frozen 2, Disney had consulted Sámi parliaments in Norway, Finland and Sweden, created an advisory group that included Sámi artists, historians, elders and political leaders, and crucially provided space for the Sámi to tell their own stories by offering internships to Sámi filmmakers and animators in order to promote their own stories.
Frozen 2 takes a topic that can overwhelm with its grave enormity and makes it more approachable, so I think we owe it to the efforts that the Sámi people have put into this movie to use it to start important conversations with ourselves and with our children.
The impression I leave with is that Frozen 2 isn’t just a good movie, it’s an important movie. It’s the kind of movie that we need more of – where the story takes centre stage to the glitz and glamour but doesn’t fully sacrifice the latter either, and where that story takes aim directly at our minds and hearts so that the world can be just a little bit brighter for the next generation.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.